Why is coffee roasted at altitude better?
Most coffee enthusiasts, roasters, baristas know that coffee grown at a high altitude is more rich and flavorful than coffee grown at lower altitudes. This is because at high altitudes, the coffee beans grow more slowly due to harsh conditions, and therefore have more time to develop complex sugars in the fruit or coffee cherry.
Alternatively, coffees grown below 3,000 feet tend to taste mild with a bland flavor. Likewise, the angled surface of the earth in mountainous regions promotes faster runoff, which means that plants absorb less water. This results in a denser coffee “cherry,” or fruit.
Coffee tastes best when it’s roasted at the lowest possible temperature for the least amount of time possible. It’s a little-known fact that coffee roasted at a high altitude requires lower temperatures and roasting time. At high elevations, the air is thinner and dryer. Less oxygen and moisture in the air results in a faster roast development over a shorter period of time.
When you roast your coffee at a high altitude, the coffee will roast much more quickly. A quick roast will allow the entire flavor compound of the bean to become more noticeable. This means that nutty, chocolaty, fruity, and berry flavors will taste stronger in each sip of coffee.
One other item to note, when you roast coffee at these lower temperatures ... you can go darker and retain more of the caffeine content of the coffee. It makes sense because normally, the darker you go when roasting at sea level for instance ... there is less caffeine in the coffee.
A shorter roast period at this lower temperature results in a smoother, more caffeinated and complex flavor that actually tastes fresher for longer. High altitude roasting results in the smoothest, freshest roast—and therefore results in the best coffee.